Friday, 13 September 2013

Palestinian rights The OZ letter 13/9

Palestinian rights
  • The Australian 

  • September 13, 2013 12:00AM
  • CHRISTIAN Kerr reports Jewish outrage over a conference on human rights in Palestine at the Australian National University ("ANU faces rage over conference", 11/9). It is important to reject the idea that the Jewish community is homogenous and that it is collectively outraged by open discourse on Palestinian rights.
    Such a claim is a generalisation. Many of the conference attendees were Jewish, as were many of the speakers.
    Gerald M. Steinberg found it fit to lecture a reputable university on the values of pursuing knowledge "free of political or religious dogmas" before he launched an attack on free speech ("Israel-bashing seminar does ANU no credit", 11/9).
    To use Steinberg's method of discrediting the messenger, one could argue he has no legitimacy when it comes to a discourse on human rights. A long-time supporter of Israel, he has been critical of leading human rights organisations.
    Surely Steinberg has no issue with the multitude of academic conferences around the world that aimed at protecting Israel and finding loopholes in international humanitarian laws to exonerate it of its responsibility towards Palestinians.
    Thanks to people such as Steinberg, the line is blurred between being critical of Israel's violations of international law and being anti-Semitic. Supporting Palestinian human rights is also perceived to be anti-Semitic by extension.
    Is it any wonder then, that in this day and age we describe those willing to speak up for Palestinian human rights as courageous? It takes courage to stand up to the tactics of those who would rather silence the debate.
    Samah Sabawi, Melbourne, Vic

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